Japanese Yamabushi Monks Who Trek Up Mountains and Across Waterfalls Barefoot


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German film maker Fritz Schumann captures the lives of the Japanese Yamabushi monks in his stunning short documentary film, Mountain Monks. Once a forbidden religion, the practicing holy men in northern Japan follow a combination of Shinto, Buddhism, Animism, and Daoism, with the aim to pursue enlightenment by reconnecting with nature. Schumann’s film follows them as they walk barefoot through rivers, meditate under waterfalls, and spend nights on mountaintops. Schumann reveals, “They walk into the forest to die and be born again.”

The film opens with one of the Yamabushi explaining, “No matter how heavy the rain falls, or how strong the wind blows, we Yamabushi climb up Mt.Gassan, go down to Mt. Yudono, walk barefoot in a river and enter waterfalls.” Clad in white robes, the group is filmed trekking through a snow-covered forest, on the path to find one of the region’s isolated ancient shrines.

The Yamabushi’s teachings of Shugendō were first established 1,400 years ago and peaked in popularity during the 17th century when Yamabushi visited around 90% of all villages in northern Japan. Their mystical tradition has a unique place in Japanese spirituality, and many believe that the Yamabushi have supernatural powers. Today, there are only a few dedicated monks still practicing Shugendō. However, they often organize pilgrimages and endurance tests for anyone who wants to shed the stress of modern life and immerse themselves in nature.

Watch the documentary below and find more of Schumann’s work on Vimeo.

German film maker Fritz Schumann captures the lives of the Japanese Yamabushi monks in his stunning short documentary film, Mountain Monks.

Fritz Schumann: Website | Instagram | Twitter | Vimeo
h/t: [Laughing Squid]

All images via Fritz Schumann.

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Emma Taggart

Emma Taggart is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. Originally from Northern Ireland, she is an artist now based in Berlin. After graduating with a BA in Fashion and Textile Design in 2013, Emma decided to combine her love of art with her passion for writing. Emma has contributed to various art and culture publications, with an aim to promote and share the work of inspiring modern creatives. While she writes every day, she’s also devoted to her own creative outlet—Emma hand-draws illustrations and is currently learning 2D animation.
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